Showroom Redo: If You Build It, They Will Come

Aug 11, 2011

As the old saying goes; “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” And, this statement is a good fit for our story, as Thunder Mountain Truck Outfitters has evolved from the simple need to satisfy a customer’s request into a modern, sophisticated showroom and service center, offering the latest in truck and 4×4 equipment.

It all started back in the early 1990s in the Cache Valley town of Logan, Utah. Located at the northern tip of the state, approximately 85 miles north of Salt Lake City, Logan is a diversified, upscale community that is rich in Western heritage. It is also home to the Bear River Mountain Range, and Logan Peak, one of Utah’s highest mountains at more than 9,700 ft.

At that time Thunder Mountain’s owner, Shane Barrington, was a production manager for a prominent aftermarket performance electronics manufacturer. An avid offroader then and now, Barrington recognized a void in the automotive marketplace that needed to be filled and decided to make this opportunity his new career. He created a manufacturing company that offered a unique accessory to the quality-conscious truck or 4×4 owner. The accessory was Rocker Flares which protect the lower body panels from rock chip damage, and the name of that company is CRE Products. The company has since enjoyed great success, and now CRE Products offers a wide selection of accessories that includes the likes of rocker flares, splash guards, nerf bar skirts and cold-weather grille inserts.

What led to the expansion into retail was a natural response from customers who frequented CRE’s showroom and sales counter. It was only a matter of time before loyal clientele began to ask for other products for their vehicles. At first it was, “Yeah, we can get that.” But Barrington soon realized that to provide better service, high-demand product should be on hand, not just special ordered.

So in April of 2008, Thunder Mountain Truck Outfitters was born. It offered 1,100 sq. ft. of showroom and another 1,100 sq. ft. of installation. The majority of the initial product selection was accessory oriented, and simple, bolt-on products that were targeted toward vehicle protection and dress-up items. This was soon to change into more complex vehicle parts, accessories and upgrades as Thunder Mountain’s customer base grew in numbers and sophistication – it was time for Barrington to consider another move.

Bigger and better

Fast forward to 2009. A local offroad shop was going through a buyout. Barrington hired some of their install pros and added more offroad accessories, expanding his offerings to include lift kits, tires and wheels. Then, in early 2010, Thunder Mountain and CRE Products moved to a new, 16,000-sq.-ft., multi-use facility that allowed Thunder Mountain to expand his showroom space to 3,500 sq. ft. and increase its installation area to service up to eight vehicles at a time.

Now, in addition to installing tires, wheels and lift kits, the company offers ring and pinion gear upgrades, high-performance axles and a multitude of tricked-out offroad performance products. Also in the product mix are truck caps, tonneau covers, winches and accessories, and a full spectrum of ride control and towing products. The shop even offers full vehicle work-ups to create the onroad or offroad vehicle of the customers’ choosing (including high-performance cars). Back in mid-April the mechanics were in overdrive working at top speed to finish many specially designed vehicles for the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, one of the premier offroad events in the country.

Through the necessity of customer demand, Thunder Mountain Truck Outfitters has become one of, if not the, premier truck and offroad destination in northern Utah for serious vehicle owners. And Barrington put his personal spin on how he feels a retail environment should look and operate: H wanted it to look unlike a typical sales floor.

A showroom that interacts with customers

The first thing you notice is the new-car dealer showroom appearance. From the custom-finished and highly polished floor to the combination of service kiosks and desks integrated into the merchandising area the concept is one of interaction with the consumer. Unlike many showrooms of today that tend to insulate the sales staff from the customer, this configuration does just the opposite by populating the sales area with, yes, salespeople.

Even customers who simply are waiting for service or installations to be completed are part of the sales atmosphere instead of being isolated from the action. Barrington feels that if the customer is treated as a client, more so than a “walk-in,” that client will feel more confident and comfortable about his impending investment. This confidence will, in turn, lead to add-on and future sales.

Adding to the showroom’s high-tech quality feel are upgraded store fixtures such as color-matched steel slatwall perimeter wall and mobile merchandisers. The steel slatwall emphasizes the clean modern lines of the showroom’s motif. The highly reflective finish adds light, and draws attention to the cash-and-carry goods on display. Steel slatwall also adds a dimension of strength to the walls and merchandisers with weight capacity that far exceeds conventional wood (MDF) material.Up above, a 10″-wide triangular truss system in silver stardust powder-coat sports low-voltage halogen track lights that are used to add light where needed, but also to spotlight featured items, categories or vehicles.

Custom signage and careful use of good quality POP also are evident throughout the showroom. Even the lack of a drop ceiling lends itself to the feeling of large open spaces that epitomizes the nature of automotive enthusiast lifestyle.

A final dimension to the showroom’s magic is the ability to showcase vehicles that have been customized or personalized for clients or, in some cases, local dealerships. Having live vehicles on the sales floor offers the unique experience of seeing many of the custom add-ons and modifications in actual use. The vehicles are rotated often to add an element of excitement to every visit to the showroom. So, if a picture’s worth a thousand words, a fully tricked-out, arrest-me-red Camaro SS should be worth a book and a half, right?

Supply to meet demand

With the expansion of retail, comes the need for an inventory to support the showroom and fill the demand between stock orders. In order to take advantage of having a well maintained and adequately supplied stock room, Barrington has pursued more wholesale business in the greater Cache Valley area. Thunder Mountain now supplies the majority of local auto body shops with daily deliveries. He also anticipates the needs of such local government agencies as fire and police departments, paramedics, Forest Service and school districts by keeping them informed of new products that will fit their needs: ladder racks, safety lights, utility bumpers, grille guards, winches and more. They, in turn, notify him when new vehicles are budgeted for, and when they will arrive. This personal and dedicated attention to customer satisfaction has grown and strengthened his wholesale customer base helping ensure maximum turns of his on-hand inventory.

Thunder Mountain Truck Outfitters is a fine example of filling a need that probably didn’t exist until the market evolved into what it is today. With the cost and sophistication of new specialty and performance vehicles being what it is, it takes a specialized and sophisticated consumer to spend the time, money and energy to own and maintain them. Shane Barrington and his professional staff bridge the gap between what consumers want and how they can get it. In this case it all started with a simple question: Can you get this for my truck? Answer: Yeah, we can get that!

Hats off to Barrington and the rest of the automotive enthusiasts in the industry with the entrepreneurial spirit and drive to make the aftermarket the success that it is today.

Good selling!